Andrew Ladd back to the Blackhawks?

130107_gq_trout_aThe NHL’s trade deadline is fast approaching (February 29), and with that inevitably comes an endless amount of trade rumors. Some are legitimate while most others are not. With regards to the Blackhawks, their name has begun surfacing more and more in recent days as their need for another defenseman and left winger grows.

Before we get to talking about the Blackhawks, here is a bit of a better understanding of what is taking place around the league right now.

With Dustin Byfuglien having signed a five-year contract extension on Monday with the Winnipeg Jets, he is officially off the trade market after having been discussed as one of the top candidates to get dealt at or before this year’s trading deadline. Because the Jets have chosen to heavily invest in their top d-man, it likely means that more dominos will begin to fall around the league. Most teams were holding out on making any deals until it became clear whether or not the Jets would be willing to deal away Byfuglien or their captain, Andrew Ladd. With Byfuglien set for a nice pay raise next year, odds are that we’re looking at an Andrew Ladd trade somewhere between now and February 29th. Ladd is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, making him a perfect “rental” piece for a contending team.

Possibly as a result of Byfuglien’s new deal, the Maple Leafs and Senators completed a trade Tuesday morning that most notably will send Toronto defenseman, and captain, Dion Phaneuf to Ottawa. So there goes another possible defenseman off the market.

Now back to the Hawks.

I’ve said it on here multiple times, and it’s really no secret at all, but the Blackhawks would love to add a true left winger who can play on the team’s top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. The team could also really use one more solid defenseman to avoid having to rely on the likes of Michal Rozsival and/or Rob Scuderi on the third d-pairing come playoff time.

I had personally been wondering about the possibility of this move happening, but Monday it was brought up by Jay Zawaski of 670 The Score in Chicago: Andrew Ladd to the Hawks.

Ladd played about two and a half seasons with the Hawks from 2008-2010 before becoming a salary cap casualty after winning the 2010 Stanley Cup. He is familiar with the Hawks’ system and Joel Quenneville, and would have virtually zero trouble fitting in with the team. He’d also be a near perfect fit on the Blackhawks’ top line with 19 and 81.

Ladd can score, he’s relatively quick, he brings size, and he can play a very physical game. His ability to combine size, speed, skill, and physicality is rare and would tremendously improve the Blackhawks’ forward depth from top to bottom.

The big question is how exactly could the Hawks pull this off?

Well for starters, it may not be as hard as it seems from a cap perspective. See Jay Zawaski’s article for more details on that here. According to Zawaski and capfriendly.com, Ladd’s remaining salary for this season would come out to a salary cap hit of about $956,000. This means the Hawks would have to shed about $100,000 in cap space to accommodate Ladd, which wouldn’t be hard to do at all.

The bigger problem is coming up with a return that would satisfy the Jets. Ideally, Winnipeg might end up being intrigued by the possibility of Bryan Bickell simply needing a new home to find his game again. If so, the Hawks could send Bickell and maybe half of his remaining contract to the Jets along with a high draft pick. If you recall, it was Klas Dahlbeck and the Hawks’ 2015 first-round pick that got them Antoine Vermette at last year’s trade deadline.

If Bickell is a no-go for the Jets, the next best scenario would be Winnipeg asking for a top prospect like Mark McNeill, Ryan Hartman, etc., along with a first round draft pick. However, I still wouldn’t count out the possibility of the Jets wanting someone like Andrew Shaw and a draft pick instead. Personally, I wouldn’t include Shaw in a deal if I was Bowman. Doing so would help the Hawks’ first line, but it wouldn’t add any depth to the bottom six.

The other area of need for the Blackhawks is defense, and some would argue that they should target a d-man before another forward.

Edmonton Oilers v Vancouver CanucksGoing off the logic used by Jay Zawaski while discussing a Ladd trade to the Hawks, a guy like Dan Hamhuis of the Vancouver Canucks could be a great fit on the Blackhawks’ blue line. Like Ladd, Hamhuis is an unrestricted free agent after this season, which is about all the Hawks can trade for, and his remaining salary for this season is nearly identical to that of Ladd’s. If the Hawks were to pursue a trade like this prior to one for Ladd, hypothetically, they would again only need to shed a little over $100,000 from their salary cap.

Could both trades take place? Theoretically yes, but it would be difficult and I’ll leave Stan Bowman up to figuring out how to make that all work.

I will reiterate that this is all speculation. None of this has been reported by any NHL analysts. I’m simply trying to figure out a trade or two that would really help the Hawks.

Other names to keep an eye on as possible targets of the Hawks should be Mikkel Boedker (AZ), Kris Versteeg (CAR), and reliable defensemen with expiring or inexpensive contracts.

Keep in mind that Stan Bowman has had a habit of dealing with other teams/GM’s that he is familiar with or has dealt with before. He has completed multiple trades with Florida and Toronto in recent years, and has dealt with Vancouver (enter Dan Hamhuis…) and Arizona (Boedker) within the last couple of seasons. Also, Kevin Cheveldayoff, the current GM of the Winnipeg Jets, used to be the Assistant General Manager under Stan Bowman with the Blackhawks. There is great familiarity between both parties there, which may or may not make an Andrew Ladd trade easier to execute.

Keep an eye on the Blackhawks from now until February 29th. It should be an exciting few weeks.

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